If you don't mind a Vegas hotel without a casino, Vdara offers big value with quiet apartment-style rooms, low prices year-round, and a prime Strip location
Monday 23rd March 2020
I made my reservation last-minute. If you book in advance for a low season like summer, you might snag prices as low as $60 per night. Prices typically hover around $99 at other times.
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Update on Vdara Hotel & Spa Las Vegas: MGM Resorts has temporarily suspended operations at its Las Vegas properties through April 16, 2020. Resorts are currently taking reservations starting for arrivals April 17th, subject to change.
"Non-gaming" is Vegas-speak for a hotel with no casino, and as a Las Vegas local used to encountering Keno at gas stations or 24-hour bingo halls down the street from my house, the sense of walking into a Strip property free from slot machines and cigarette smoke was as calming as stepping into a spa.
Located at City Center, Vdara Hotel & Spa is a gleaming tower that forgoes Strip kitsch in favor of urban sophistication. Rooms are all suites, decorated in muted tones and flashes of green, akin to high-rise apartments.
Yet the absence of a casino doesn't mean sacrifice on luxury or comfort. Vdara has an award-winning spa, a rooftop pool, and a lush patio lobby bar. It's just a short walk or free tram ride from Bellagio, Park MGM, and Aria.
I stayed in a Studio Suite, the base-level room with a dining area, kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom all in 582-square-feet. The room cost $119, plus taxes and a $45 daily resort fee for a last-minute, Friday night booking. During the same time period, I also saw rates as low as $99 for this same room on weeknights, and travelers willing to brave high temps in low summer season might pay as little as $60 per night.
My cheapest rate skimped on view. A Studio Fountain View room overlooking the Las Vegas Strip will be typically priced at about $35-$45 more. However, the Studio suite offers strong value considering there's a kitchen with two-burner stove, microwave, and mini-fridge, for an apartment-style set-up that's great for families, business travelers, and those looking for a more liveable hotel option in Las Vegas.
Upon entering Vdara, snap an obligatory photo of the massive art installation made of hundreds of canoes outside (which is exactly as strange as it sounds). I did, right before entering the cool expanse of the lobby.
Inside, natural light filtered in from Vice Versa Patio & Lounge - the hotel's only bar - which had both an indoor seating area and an outdoor space outfitted with greenery and fire pits. I noticed a separate seating area with desks near the elevators, where a few people sat working on laptops. Vdara seemed to be quite popular with business travelers, which made sense given the apartment-style suite setup in rooms.
I made my way to registration and found the check-in line at the lobby to be short. It took me about four minutes to get to the front.
A very friendly front desk agent complimented my last name and gave me a brief rundown on spa services. Alas, spa entry was not included with the room, I was disappointed to learn.
Likely due to the lack of on-site casino, the walk to the elevator was the shortest I have ever experienced in Las Vegas. Inside, ambient music played, which served as a stark contrast from the usual nightclub-inspired soundtrack heard in most Las Vegas elevators.
I arrived on the 31st floor and walked down the dimly-lit and very quiet hallway to my room.
Opening up the door to my Studio Suite at the Vdara was like stepping into the city high rise apartment I've always dreamed of for myself.
An entry hallway led to a two-seat wooden table facing a kitchenette with two burners, microwave, mini-fridge, mini-bar, and a reasonable amount of counter space. I opened the cabinets and drawers to see if they'd included pots, pans, and utensils, but they were empty, which temporarily derailed my fantasy. While having a kitchen will save money on dining out, you have to request cookware from housekeeping at an extra fee. I was unable to verify the price during my stay but was surprised to see a kitchen with no equipment to use it, and paying extra seemed unreasonable.
The bedroom had a King-sized bed with simple white linens. The mattress wasn't super firm or soft, and I slept well thanks to blackout curtains and thick walls. Panoramic windows revealed a northwest-facing view of the mountains, a busy highway, and several off-Strip hotels including the Palms and the Rio.
Beside the bed, a tablet included information about hotel amenities, a room service menu, digital newspapers, games, and the option of ordering items like chips, soda, and aspirin for delivery via robot. I didn't get the chance to experience the robot delivery, but I did have the pleasure of rolling over in the morning and pushing a button to summon French toast from a real live room service attendant, which was quite efficient.
The bedroom and living room areas were separated by a large wooden shelving unit with televisions on both sides - one for flipping channels from bed, and one for watching from the couch. The living room was comprised of a sofa, armchair, and a coffee table with a few Las Vegas magazines.
I loved the wood paneling on the wall above the couch, as well as the steely color palette of the room with pops of green. It reminded me of an urban spa.
Given the popularity of this hotel with business travelers, I thought it was odd that there was no work desk. Additionally, I found the Wi-Fi to be spotty and ended up having to rely on data for part of my stay. This felt frustrating given the fact that internet was included in the $45 daily resort fee, which felt pricey.
The bathroom was modern and well-sized but perhaps not as glam as other Vegas hotel bathrooms I've experienced. There was a deep soaking tub tucked between a glass shower stall and just one single vanity sink.
Overall, I thought the room offered great value for the price, given the size and function, though I wished the hotel would consider stocking the cabinets with at least a few dishes. Anyone booking a Vdara suite for the use of a kitchen will most certainly end up paying extra to take advantage of this otherwise unusable amenity.
First-time Vegas travelers may want to consider spending a bit more for a Strip-facing room (a Studio Fountain View room will cost you about $35 extra per night). However, I actually enjoyed the view of the mountains and felt it added to the overall sense of retreat from the city.
Vdara Hotel & Spa charges a daily $45 resort fee (quite common in Las Vegas) that includes internet, unlimited local calls, access to more than 6,000 digital newspapers, boarding pass printing, notary services, and turndown service on request.
In addition to room service and the whole chips-via-robot thing, Vdara also offers the aforementioned Vice Versa Patio & Lounge. I made time to have an Ultimate Gin & Tonic here. They're known for this cocktail, which is garnished with cucumber ribbons, rose petals, and juniper berries. Ordering one guarantees that nearly everyone at the bar will stop by to marvel at it, I promise you.
Vdara's only other drinking or dining option is its Market Café, a counter-service restaurant for everything from omelets in the morning to cheesecake for dessert.
Also on-site is a spa, fitness center, and rooftop pool. The two-story spa costs $40 for a day-pass Monday through Thursday or $80 from Friday through Sunday. If you book a treatment, you may use the facilities for free.
The fitness center is efficient and clean - much like the hotel itself - with free weights, cardio equipment, and a smoothie bar.
The pool has long been the subject of a phenomenon known locally as the Vdara Death Ray. Allegedly, on hot summer days, the glass windows on the hotel reflect light down to the pool, causing sunburns. As of 2016, the curious problem was still occurring. It was too overcast and cool during my stay to experience it, let alone use the pool at all, but I will say it is a lovely space, and you can always take shelter under an umbrella with a glass of frozen rose if you stay here in summer.
In my opinion, Vdara is located in one of the most desirable parts of the Strip within City Center. This shopping and entertainment complex also encompasses hotels including the Waldorf Astoria, Aria,, Veer Towers, as well as the popular Shops at Crystals, with designer boutiques.
All of the buildings collectively have a skyscraper look, which gives the area a streamlined appearance in contrast with the surrounding Strip. If you stay at the Vdara, you can use the free on-site tram to get to Aria, the Shops at Crystals, and Park MGM. You can also walk to the Bellagio without going outside.
If you're craving more excitement, the neighboring Aria has a bustling casino, many restaurants, and a nightclub. In the other direction, the Bellagio is home to another popular casino, restaurants, art museum, and a popular Cirque du Soleil show.
For other non-gaming options, Waldorf Astoria is a short walk away and has a lovely afternoon tea service, champagne vending machine, and a lounge with spectacular Strip views.
Vdara Hotel & Spa currently holds a rating of 4.5 out of 5-stars on Trip Advisor, and is ranked 50 out of 273 hotels by past guests.
Guests who loved the property were drawn to its non-gaming status. These travelers praised the fact that the hotel was quiet and smoke-free. One reviewer described it as "for people who like feeling at home when in Vegas," which given my high rise apartment fantasy, I'd agree with.
Those who didn't enjoy their stay bemoaned hidden fees including valet parking charges ($30 per night), pricey mini-bar items, and of course, the classic Las Vegas headache known as the pesky resort fee.
Who stays here: Everyone who stays here made the conscious decision to book a room at a hotel without a casino, or were attracted to the all-suite offering at budget-friendly prices. This includes business travelers on an extended stay, families needing space, and thrifty tourists glad to have room to stretch out with access to a rooftop pool.
We like: The room design including a wooden accent wall in the living room and wide windows that made the space feel like a haven perched high above the city.
We love (don't miss this feature!): Vice Versa Patio & Lounge doesn't appear on many "Best Bars in Vegas" lists, but should. It's one of my favorites thanks to the lush feel in an otherwise steel and glass space. If weather allows, have a cocktail and an appetizer on the patio.
We think you should know: Many amenities are only available on request, including kitchenware, bathrobes, coffee makers, and turndown service. Some, like the coffee maker, will cost extra and feel as if you're being nickeled and dimed. Others, however, like late checkout might be available at no charge.
We'd do this different next time: After seeing several people walk through the lobby with four-legged friends, I found myself wishing I'd brought my dog. The Vdara is very pet-friendly and even has an on-site dog park, plus canine butler services like dog walking, treat boxes, and the option to have a staff member check in on your pet while you're out. You can bring up to two dogs with a maximum combined weight of less than 100 pounds for an extra $100 per night, per dog.
True to its tagline ("Do Vegas Differently") the Vdara Hotel & Spa is a great option for anyone in need of a spacious suite at a more affordable price, and those that would rather not navigate the labyrinth of a smoky casino, or stumble out of a nightclub.
Rooms are highly liveable with apartment-style setups that feel more functional than the average hotel room on the strip and personalized service made me feel incredibly welcome.
While there is no shortage of $50 hotel rooms in Las Vegas, even the Vdara's most basic rooms are still well-sized and reasonably priced with kitchenettes, over 500 square feet, and robot delivery service.
While the hotel is largely affordable, extra costs do add up, including valet and resort fees, upcharges for dishware to cook meals, and spa access.
However, there's still luxury appeal with a gleaming spa, rooftop pool, and polished design all culminating in a sleek, stylish retreat that is quieter than most competitors without feeling too removed from the action.